The worst part of the offseason is always the beginning. Teams are unwilling to talk too much about possible draft picks or their own players so as not to hurt their own draft and value from their free agents. In fact, the biggest news of the offseason so far has been the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement and the potential uncapped year. Many pundits have already said next year will definitely be uncapped, but that won’t be official until March. Although this news does relax the standards under which teams can sign free agents, there are no free spending teams in the NFC West and it is unlikely to see one team sign a great number of free agents. In fact the only team really affected by the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement is Arizona: since the Cardinals were a "final eight" team, they can only sign one free agent for a salary more than $5 million per year. However, the current agreement won’t expire until March and Cardinals fans should not worry about it until then. Luckily, there actually is news from the other teams in the NFC West this week to keep Cardinals fans busy.
St. Louis Rams: The Rams were the busiest franchise in the league this week. Rams owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez came to terms with Illinois businessman Shahid Khan about selling the team. Rosenbloom and Rodriguez have agreed in principle to sell their 60% stake in the Rams to Khan. The sale will not be final until the other owners approve. Rosenbloom and Rodriguez inherited the team from former owner Georgia Frontierre, who moved the team to St. Louis and watched it win a championship in 1999. The other 40% is owned by Denver Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke. It is unknown what Kroenke’s plans are, but Khan has indicated that he would be willing to buy Kroenke’s 40% should he decide to sell. I think it’s likely that Kroenke will sell as he is trying to become the majority owner of the English Premier Team Arsenal, and will need a huge amount of cash for that to take place. Rams fans can rejoice with the news: Khan has indicated he would keep the team in St. Louis, rather than move it elsewhere. He is also reportedly a big fan of the team, which is good and bad. As a fan, Khan will likely want to spend a lot of money on his team (much like Marc Cuban and Jerry Jones, both of whom are fans of their franchises), but there is a chance that he will want to meddle in coach Steve Spagnulo’s vision. There is a question about whether Khan would be acceptable to the other owners: he has an ongoing dispute with the IRS over income tax obligations. However, it was Goldman Sacchs, the noted Wall Street firm, who found Khan and it is unlikely they would approve of him if they believed the owners would reject his bid.
In other news, the Rams are reportedly unlikely to use either of their tags this season. In the uncapped year, teams get to use two tags, whether they are both franchise, both transition, or a mix. Many teams will not be using the tags this year as most free agents are unrestricted, and it seems the Rams will fall into that category. Their list of unrestricted free agents (Kyle Boller, Chris Massey, Randy McMichael, and James Hall) is extremely underwhelming.
San Francisco 49ers: Not much has been going on with the Niners since the season ended. Coach Mike Singletary took some time off after the season to go to the Superbowl and film a remake of the Chicago Bears Superbowl shuffle for Boost Mobile. Of the interviews I heard during Superbowl Week, most focus on his desire for WINNERS. HE WANTS PEOPLE WHO WANT TO WIN (sorry, I just can’t help myself when it comes to Mike Singletary). The only thing of interest is that the Niners are planning to use their franchise tag on Aubrayo Franklin. This is a good move for them, and a bad one for us as I was hoping we could somehow get him to come to Arizona and replace Gabe Watson. Franklin plays defensive tackle for the Niners and exceeded many expectations this year, playing extremely well and particularly giving the Cardinals trouble. The Niners front 7 is the deepest it has been since the 90’s and if the Cardinals don’t shore up their offensive line they could be looking at two very tough games next year and a possible threat at the division title. Although draft analysts have touted CJ Spiller as a good pick for a team who has Frank Gore and Glen Coffee, the Niners have focused much of their time scouting offensive tackles. The Niners biggest problems this year were inconsistency at the quarterback position and below average line play. By drafting one (or even two) high profile tackles, the Niners could shore up their line very quickly.
Seattle Seahawks: Pete Carroll has been very quiet since being hired by the Seattle Seahawks. Other than filling in his coaching staff, he hasn’t been doing much- that is, he hasn’t been doing much in the public eye. My guess is he’s spending much of his time scouting during the upcoming draft. Seattle’s draft plans are unsure: they hold the number 6 and number 14 pick this year and have many positions to upgrade, mostly on offense. The Seahawks need to find a dominating left tackle to fill in the void left by Walter Jones’ expected retirement. They need to upgrade their running back core, and also think about life after Matt Hassellbeck. Defensively, they need taller cornerbacks to match up with the Larry Fitzgeralds and Michael Crabtrees of the world, and a 3-technique defensive tackle to shore up their defensive line. It is this position that our friends over at Field Gulls have become obsessed with: they are in love with Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. As a Cal alum and die hard Cal fan, I’ve watched Alualu for the last four years and I can tell you that he is a very good player. He was a 3-4 defensive end at Cal and would excel as a 4-3 defensive tackle. However, with so many positions needing an upgrade, can Seattle use their second round pick on him? They don’t have a third rounder and I have a feeling Bill Belichek will be waiting to swoop in on him in the second round.
In other news, Pete Carroll has signed his first USC product. Punter Tom Malone, who punted for the Trojans for four years, signed with the Hawks to compete with current punter Jon Ryan. They also signed CFL star Ricky Foley. Foley was an outside pass rusher for the BC Lions for the past 4 years. I’m not really sure what to make of that.